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From AI to VR, the biggest announcements from Google IO

Google IO showed the company's commitment to AI and how intelligent machines will shape the future of electronics.

By Joe Clark

Google’s annual developer conference, Google IO, has showcased some of the company’s latest breakthroughs and given an insight into what we can expect from the tech giant in future.

The conference, held near its Mountain View HQ, showcased the capabilities of Google in the fields of  artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and image recognition.

Whilst there were no major hardware announcements made, Google gave those who watched a status update on the announcements made last year.

Geoff Blaber, VP, Americas at CCS Insight. said: “Google I/O 2017 saw Google taking clear measures to respond to competitor moves in artificial intelligence, the home, IoT and VR. Google’s scale puts it in a strong position but whilst the mobile OS battle is over, we’re only at the dawn of a broader war in artificial intelligence and the home”.

“Consistent with Microsoft’s developer keynote last week, artificial intelligence was pervasive and positioned as helping humans rather than substituting them. It’s central to an abundance of Google services but its broader role is deeply dependent on developers. 2017 is seeing a steep ramp in tools and incentives for those that will ultimately take AI mainstream”

The key takeaways from Google IO mostly centred around AI. Google was very keen to show some form of machine intelligence in almost every presentation including the newly announced Google Lens, an image recognition technology that will enable phones to identify what they’re taking a picture of.

One of the more interesting demos shown at Google IO showed a picture of a WiFi code that the phone could then recognise, use, and connect to the WiFi in question. The company did not offer a release date for Google Lens but said that the technology would be available as part of its photos app.

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In addition to this, Google photos will be receiving a host of new features including another kind of image recognition software that will not only be able to identify if there are people to tag in the image, but which person specifically is in the image.

The company will also be starting Google.ai which is a new initiative designed to encourage AI development throughout the entire tech community, with research papers and new tools being shared amongst each other.

Google.ai says that its mission will be to make the world’s information available to all through the use of AI technologies whilst simultaneously creating new solutions and solving old problems.

Google assistant is being given a boost to its conversational skills, making it more human like. The service will also be available on iOS for the first time ever and will feature in the new upgraded version of Google Home.

This new version of Google Home will allow users to make phone calls from the device which, using improved voice recognition, will allow specific users to make calls from their own mobile devices. Google will also be released a software development kit for the device allowing users to create their own apps just like competitor Amazon’s Alexa does.

Blaber said: “Google Assistant is becoming the glue that seamlessly connects search, devices and a host of Google and third party services. It’s not only central to the future of search but the long term relevance of Google as a gateway to others apps and services. Assistant is beginning to emerge as the real platform for developers.”

The tech giant gave an update to the dedicated Daydream helmet for VR, that will be developed in collaboration with HTC, the developers of the acclaimed Vive headset. Currently there is no release date for the headset but it will be available in several varieties one which will require a smartphone, and will be compatible with Samsung phones, and another two which will be dedicated VR platforms.

Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, also revealed that there are currently 2 billion people using android devices across the world. Similarly there are 800 million using Google Drive users currently uploading 1.2 billion photos every day.

The company’s new OS, Android O, is also available in beta. The new OS promises vast optimisations in memory and security over previous versions and Google Autofill support.

Whilst there wasn’t anything huge announced at this year’s Google IO it did show that Google is taking tremendous steps towards improving its existing technologies, particularly with regards to AI.

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